Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Principal's Blog - February 2008

Minister of Education Visits College Heights February 21, 2008

Minister Kathleen Wynne visited College Heights on Thursday February 21 at 12:00 PM. She and two of her aids were treated to a lunch prepared by our students in the Hospitality Services program assisted by Mrs. Lori Furfaro, Mr. Shawn Doucette and chef Peter Darrach. Along with the Minister, we welcomed the Director of Education, Dr. Rogers, six of the Boards Superintendents and four Trustees. We, with the help of Mr. Charles Benyair, told our guests about our Career Pathways and the two Specialist High Skills Major programs that we currently offer; Manufacturing and Hospitality & Tourism, and the two new programs we have applied for, for next year, Construction and Agriculture. Minister Kathleen Wynne and party left us at about 2:15 PM, after a brief tour of our Welding shop.

Literacy Initiatives

Many of our students have difficulty reading and writing, hence, we are implementing our efforts to improve their skills. Our main initiative is our literacy lab, which is housed in room A109. In that small room, we are able to handle a maximum of 8 students. A mixture of teaching approaches modeled on the “Language” program and the use computer software called Academy of Reading. The room has 6 computers with the program available to the students. Over the years we have observed most students advancing up to two reading levels after one semester in the lab. This semester a class for grade 11 students was created to extend the program to help reading challenged students for a third year.

This year we have implemented a free reading program in every class. In this program every teacher will provide appropriate material for students to read for at least 15 minutes twice every week. After reading, teachers will take steps to get students to talk about or write about what they have read.

In the area of preparation to write the Literacy test in the early spring, every teacher in our school was given time to prepare a test booklet that looked exactly like the literacy test but used material from their course. Our head of Literacy, Ms. Diane Leach, picked up the blank templates to make this possible from a contact at a school in Brampton. The plan is for every teacher to use the developed booklet in their classes before March break. Teachers were given direction on how to assist students to read text and how to improve comprehension of regular text and graphical text. Teachers were also given direction on how to help students to improve the writing of a short piece, an opinion piece and a news story.

Library Improvement

Some of our staff members under the leadership of Mrs. Lori Furfaro, have been looking at strategies to update our Library. Staff from our school have visited two other vocational schools to look at the use of libraries among other things. Staff visited Sir Guy Carlton in Ottawa and Thames Secondary School in London. This will be a long term task and I will share information on the progress of this project.

Professional Learning Community (PLC) Time for Teachers

This semester, staff will be spending time with their department colleagues to develop four smart goals and the action plans to implement the following with their students: how to improve the success and the literacy skills of the students taking courses offered by the department; how to improve the responsibility of our students; how to improve the self-esteem of our students taking courses in the department; and finally, how to improve the problem solving skills of students taking courses in each department. Later this semester, all these plans will be merged and our Heads and staff will develop the school improvement plan for College Heights for the next school year.

Computer Technology at College Heights

The Board is in the process of selecting a computer vendor to supply the computers to replace all the computers in all of our schools over the next few years. The goal of this plan is to ensure that all schools in the Board will have updated computer technology for student and staff use and these computers will be replaced every six years. A basic part of this plan is to also allow teachers to include modern technology in their teaching. Hence, most of the classrooms will be equipped with a digital projector and every room will have access to the Internet and student work on our file server. College Heights, under the leadership of Mr. Dix, will develop a plan to implement this Board initiative in our school and all this will be in place before the summer.

Healthy Active Living at College Heights

We at College Heights put a great emphasis on healthy active living for our students. At this school, every grade 9 and grade 10 student is required to take a physical education course. The intent of these courses is to prepare our students for a life of healthy active living. To help in this development, we have instituted a much larger exercise room in A-hall. We are in the process of adding the necessary pieces of equipment to make this a state of the art fitness room.

For students who are team sports oriented, we are continuing to add and develop our sports teams which compete in District Four. This year, we have boys and girls basketball and volleyball teams taking part and improving their skills. The other major team over the years has been our girls and boys wrestling teams. This year, as he has done for nine years in a row, coach Wilson will be taking team members to the Ontario wrestling finals at OFSSA. Great job coach Wilson and students!

Specialist High Skills Majors

College Heights is the only vocational school in Ontario that has implemented this latest Ministry of Education initiative. Last school year, we implemented a pilot Manufacturing program in partnership with Centennial. We had Centennial students come over to College Heights to take our welding and machine shop courses. We also ran different accreditation courses for our high skills major students here and last June five students graduated with a red seal on their diploma to indicate their success in the Manufacturing High Skills Major program.

This year Hospitality and Tourism was added to the Manufacturing pilot. Extra money from the Ministry was invested into College Heights to begin this new addition. Our students have clearly benefited from these programs.

Next year we hope to implement a Construction and Agriculture program and look forward to the benefits our students will experience.

At Risk Coop Programs

We at College Heights encourage as many of our senior students as possible to take a Coop course to help develop employability skills. We have observed that any student that successfully completes the Coop course, with the required working time within a company in the community, will no longer be at risk of graduating. So this year we implemented an at risk Coop program under the direction of Mr. Ron Aimola. The key part of the program was for our students to spend time working under the direction of Mr. Aimola at Ignatius College. Students also had the opportunity to work at the food bank, the YMCA and Habitat for Humanity. This course was funded by the Ministry’s Learn to 18 project and is running this semester also.